Monday, 28 March 2011


Film: Just Before Dawn **
Year: 1981 
Certificate: 18
Running Time: 90 mins
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Starring: Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry, George Kennedy, Deborah Benson
Genre: Horror
Format: DVD
Reviewer: Adam Wing

Five likable twenty-something’s, probably playing teenagers, venture into the dense Oregon woods to do a spot of camping on land one of them has just inherited. Before you can say Texas Chainsaw Massacre they hit a doe-eyed deer with their van and have their first run in with a lunatic in need of fresh meat.

That doesn’t put them off, not even Forest ranger Roy (George Kennedy) can do that, when he warns them of impending doom (this came out just after Friday the 13th but we’ll let the filmmakers off for now). The five friends pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and as you might imagine, things go downhill pretty fast - welcome to Jeff Lieberman’s occasionally worthwhile 80’s ‘horror classic’, Just Before Dawn.

The setting is unnerving, the five characters are less annoying than your average slasher movie victims, and the musical score is used sparingly to good effect. What Jeff Lieberman’s movie lacks is a truly demented villain; the hillbilly’s won’t be giving Leatherface a restless night that’s for sure. Amusing rather than alarming, they lurch from one scene to the next without ever appearing threatening. Perhaps the blame lies with Lieberman for failing to deliver the guts and gory, even though Just Before Dawn serves up the occasional fist down the throat to all things buoyant.

It’s worth pointing out that the picture quality of the R2 DVD is horrendous, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the poor quality transfer only adds to the appeal of this token 80’s slasher. The plot is unsurprisingly paper-thin, but all the hallmarks of vastly superior slasher movies are in place, and Just Before Dawn makes for passable viewing if not remotely groundbreaking. There’s no nudity, very little blood and a severe lack of screen worthy villainy, but just occasionally Just Before Dawn hits the spot - usually with a rusty machete.

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